Dengue Fever and the Malaysian Hospital Experience

Before we start, I’m fine.  Kristi is the one who has Dengue. 

It all started the first day we landed in Kota Kinabalu.  Kristi wasn’t feeling well and developed a fever.  We spent the night trying to get her to sweat it out.  The next day I left her in bed to rest while I spent the day with Team Malta.  On the 3rd day, the fever was coming and going at random and she felt very nauseous every time she tried to eat something.  We spent a Sunday walking around the big Market in KK and she said that she wants to see a doctor.  Of course it’s Sunday and nothing is open.  Monday morning, we wake up and Kristi has broken out into a red rash all over her hands and feet. 

Team Malta had a vehicle they rented so Nick dropped us off at the clinic before and went back to the hotel to check everyone out.  This is where the Adventure begins:
Monday Aug 10
12:58pm – Arrive at the first clinic… all doctors are at lunch.  Told to come back at 2pm
1:15pm – Check in to new hotel
1:45pm – Get back to the clinic
2:15pm – Are told we have to pay to see the Doctor and they won’t deal with our insurance.  They won’t make an International call and don’t understand what “Toll free” means
2:30pm – Arrive at Permai Polyclinic.  Same thing, it’s 60RM to see a doctor… we agree to eat the cost
3:45pm – Get to see the doctor.  She suggests we do a blood test for Dengue Fever to which we agree.  It’s a fast test and only takes 15 minutes.
4:04pm – Blood drawn
4:25pm – Test is positive for Dengue.  Doctor recommends hooking Kristi up to a “drip” and then go to the hospital… or just go to the hospital. 
We choose to just go to the hospital.
4:40pm – Call travel insurance company and ask which hospital we’re covered to go to.  She says any so we choose the private hospital.  The doctor writes us a referral
5:15pm – We arrive at the KPJ Sabah Specialist Hospital.  The front desk lady is done working for the day and sends us to emergency
5:20pm – They say our insurance is void here.  I say they need to call… again I have to explain slowly what “Toll Free” means.  The phone won’t dial the number.
5:25pm – I’m talking to the hotel operator about dialing out.  They say they will call me back
5:27pm – Phone rings and neither staff member picks it up so I do… It’s IT
5:31pm – Phone rings again… Staff gonna pick up? Nope.  It’s someone not speaking English.  Why are they allowing a patron to answer the phone? I don’t even speak Malay.
5:32pm – The WiFi doesn’t work… we can’t even attempt to call from skype
5:33pm – They aren’t understanding that our phone doesn’t have a number or sim card and it only works with WiFi 
5:34pm – They inform us we need to be admitted by a doctor. We show them our referral… they say they don’t accept referrals from the clinic and we need to see their doctor.
5:45pm – There’s a lot of repeating and my head feeling like it’s going to explode.  I honestly may have come out of that conversation feeling dumber.
6pm – Finally Kristi is getting blood work done… again.
6:20pm – Kristi is being asked a series of questions… where all she’s visited, health questions, etc.  She says she’s positive it’s Dengue. 
6:45pm – The doctor suggests we go get something to eat… there’s a bakery upstairs and a convenient store similar to 711… there is nothing else nearby
6:55pm – We eat bread for dinner
7:00pm – We wait outside because the emergency room is like -2 degrees… I guess because they don’t have to help you if you freeze to death
8:10pm – The doctor says the test is positive for Dengue… we knew this 4 hours ago. 
8:15pm – Kristi is in a bed and I have to fill out paperwork to admit her. 
8:20pm – They want me to sign papers saying I’m responsible for paying.  I insist they call my Insurance provider. 
8:22pm – They establish that they cannot dial out to Toll Free numbers.  I suggest that being that they are a private hospital, they should upgrade their phones to something that wasn’t made in 1987
8:25pm – The lady at the front desk tells me to just sign the papers.  I pretend I don’t understand and ask her if she has my insurance company on the phone? 
8:27pm – I think she’s beginning to be as frustrated as I am
8:28pm – I suggest they go to the website for my insurance… they can’t connect to the internet either… I begin to think, if they can’t make something as simple as WiFi work, I’d hate to see their medical equipment. 
8:32pm – They hit me where it hurts and say they will not admit Kristi until I sign the papers.  I give in realizing that this may cost me a lot of money if I sign off on anything that my insurance company won’t cover.
8:40pm – The system is barely working… it still hasn’t processed.  But the Clerk’s attitude towards me is much kinder now that I’ve signed all the papers.
8:52pm – Deposit has finally processed and they have promised me they will keep trying to contact my insurance company. I know she’s lying. She already told me her shift is over at 9pm. 
8:55pm – I’m back with Kristi, she’s very upset and I feel terrible for being away so long.  She asked them to wait for me to get there before putting the IV in (because she really hates them).  The nurse said okay and went to do something, the doctor came in and tried to do it herself.  Naturally she missed on the first time and Kristi couldn’t stop shaking so she didn’t try again.  She then decided Kristi doesn’t need the IV.  Luckily the nurse was really good and helped her calm down a bit. 
8:58pm – They move us to a room on the 5th floor.  There’s 6 beds.  Sweet private facilities… At this point I’m wondering if we would have been better in the public hospital.  The clinic was a million times better than this place. 
9:30pm – I’m mentally drained
9:58pm – We doze off into a very shitty series of cat naps waking up every 20-45minutes. 
Tuesday August 11
5:00am – “Good Morning. I need to check your blood pressure” Kristi’s was fine… probably good that they didn’t check mine.  It’s hard to say “Good Morning” when the sunrise is in 90 minutes.
5:12am – I check the phone… WiFi still down. 
5:30am – I confirm with Kristi that she will be okay. She says she will so I decide to go back to the hotel to get some essentials. 
5:32am – I confirm with the nurse what time the doctor will see her.  She says between 9-9:30.  I tell them if they need to put in an IV to wait until I get back.
6:02am – Arrive back at the hotel and inform them I will need another night.
6:12am – I start writing an email to the BCAA Rep who booked our insurance to explain our issues getting a hold of One World Assist. 
7:00am – Much needed shower.
7:20am – Make a skype call over wifi to One World Assist.  The call is quite broken because WiFi sucks everywhere in KK.  They assure me that it’s common for them to be cut out of the deal and that the hospitals here don’t like waiting for payment from Insurance companies. They tell me to collect all original paperwork as it will all need to be mailed in.  They also said they will pay for everything if the Hospital is willing to work with them. 
7:40am – Hang up with the agent and pack a bag with some clean clothes and stuff to entertain Kristi.
8:00am – Go downstairs and order “breakfast” from the 24 hour Chinese restaurant connected to our hotel
8:30am – I arrange a taxi to wait for me while I run upstairs and make sure I have everything for the hospital. I also convince him to charge me 1/3 less than my previous two taxis and we stop at a super market so I can get Kristi some fresh fruit… it was closed.  Apparently the markets don’t open till 9:30am here
8:55am – Get to the hospital just in time to find out Kristi just spoke to the doctor.  He came off like she didn’t need to be in the hospital but decided to keep her for more blood work.  I’m starting to wonder if this is about money and not her health.  She still hasn’t been given any medication and has just been drinking water.  She could have done this comfortably in our hotel.
9:15am – Nurse takes blood
9:30am – I go get Kristi an apple juice from downstairs.
9:35am – I decide to check in on Admissions to see if there’s been any progress on contacting our Insurance company.  They tell me there hasn’t (called it).  Their WiFi is still down.  I tell them if I can make a phone call from my tablet, they should be able to call from a real phone.  They tell me I need to call my insurance company and have them get me Malaysian Insurance…. Why the eff would I want shitty Malaysian insurance? How do you propose I call them over wifi if your wifi doesn’t work?  She then suggested I send them an email….I give her a blank stare and ask if she magically fixed the wifi when I blinked and I just missed it.  She realizes how stupid her comment was.  I tell her there’s an email address on the website that they can contact. 
9:45am – I ask for an estimated price.  I start asking impossible questions for them to answer like how long till Kristi will be healthy? How many more hours is she here for? Does she have results handy? I then go into detail about how I will need every original piece of paperwork if I have to pay.  I am going to make this as difficult as possible for them to get money from me directly.  I have a goal to make them wish they had just called the insurance company in the first place. 
10:00am – Kristi likes her juice
10:04am – The nurse asks if we still can’t connect to WiFi? I tell her it’s down.  She tells me it’s working and maybe I have the password wrong.  I type it in (the exact same pw) WiFi doesn’t work.
10:09am – WiFi is up again.  It’s very good WiFi.  Just kidding. It sucks.
10:30am – Kristi asks a nurse if there’s anything she can take for nausea?
10:45am – The doctor comes in and offers to put Kristi on drip if she’s feeling nauseous but it won’t help her eat.  She has no problem drinking water and it seems she will be nauseous either way.  She doesn’t get the IV
11:45am – This blood work is taking a long time
12:00pm – Lunch arrives.  It smells terrible.  I give Kristi the banana and take the rest out of the room as the smell is making her sick. 
12:45pm – I go for lunch. Chinese food across the street.  Sweet and sour pork done the way white people like it.
1:30pm – I return and we play the waiting game
2:30pm – So bored.
3:00pm – Ask the nurse if Kristi is going to have an ultrasound or not.  They say they need to call the doctor first… wtf?!? Why haven’t they called the doctor?
3:30pm – I debate going to the bank and taking out 1000RM in singles to pay
4:30pm – We finally get called to see the doctor.
4:35pm – Ultrasound looks good. 
4:40pm – Discuss medication and conclude that Kristi doesn’t need anything but a follow up appointment on Friday.
4:54pm – Approved for discharge.  Waiting on Nurses to get paperwork together
5:45pm – I ask the nurse what we’re waiting for.  She says she needs to call someone
6:00pm – Dinner arrives… are we not being discharged? I come off slightly rude to the guy (unintentionally) He remembered Kristi couldn’t eat lunch so he brought her a plate of fresh fruit.  A silver lining to this experience
6:05pm – I apologize for my tone and thank the guy in the hallway
6:07pm – I ask the nurse why we are still here
6:30pm – Finally everything is ready
6:40pm – Pay the lady at discharge.  I wonder who sleeps on this bed of money?
7:00pm – Taxi back to the hotel.
Total time Kristi was away from the hotel was 30 hours. 
The front desk people at this hospital were some of the worst I’ve ever seen.  Unwilling to cooperate with foreigners… don’t they realize we are the ones with money? 
This was a Private hospital and I really would not want to see the public hospital.
However the nurses were great to deal with for the most part.  They were willing to speak with me and when I had a request it usually happened right away.  They were very active with keeping Kristi’s water bottle filled.
There seems to be very little efficiency here… especially when it came to admitting and discharging us. 

Looks like we are in Kota Kinabalu for a while longer as we don’t want to rush back to the road until Kristi is 100%. This is actually a pretty nice city when you have some time to appreciate it.

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